Strength in numbers proved to be the difference for the Lackawanna High School football team in a showdown of Class B-3 unbeatens.
The Steelers took advantage of a larger roster as they controlled the second half against long-time nemesis Alden and picked up a big 24-7 win on a hot afternoon at Veterans Stadium.
“We knew that they have a short bench,” Lackawanna coach Adam Tardif said. “We preach to the kids about conditioning and playing four full quarters and that’s what we did. They’re a great football team, they have a lot of skill, but we wanted to wear them down.”
The win for Lackawanna (3-0, 2-0) was its first over Alden since 2009. The Steelers avenged a 28-12 loss in Alden last Oct. 7.
“We had to make a statement,” said running back Khalil Horton, who ran for a pair of scores. “After losing to them last year in a tough loss, we had to make a statement that we’re back.”
After a surprise run to the sectional semifinals as a No. 8 seed last year, Lackawanna showed it has what it takes to be a force in Class B this season.
“They played us tough last year and obviously went on to do some good things,” Alden coach Rob Currin said. “That’s a big strong group of athletes that’s well-coached and my hat’s off to them.”
For the Bulldogs (2-1 overall and in the division), a 22-man roster proved to be a hindrance in the heat at Veterans Stadium. After a toe-to-toe first half, the Steelers were a step ahead in the second.
Fatigue sets in,” Currin said. “We’re asking the kids to do a lot. We’re asking a few kids to do quite a bit with the numbers on our team; that’s tough. But forget us. That’s a very good football team that beat us today.”
Lackawanna took control of the game late in the second quarter with a late drive that culminated with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Noble Smith to his twin brother London. A short TD run by Horton and a 68-yard punt return for another touchdown put the game away for the Steelers.
“In the second half, we just came out with a better tempo, better mindset and played as a unit,” Horton said.
Bryan Cybulski scored the lone touchdown for Alden in the second quarter and then got a scare in the fourth. Late in the game, he raced 43 yards and dove for the end zone but was drilled by London Smith, who was ejected for targeting on the play.
The Alden quarterback was down on the field for several minutes but walked off under his own power. Currin said Cybulski was “fine, believe it or not” after the game and praised the effort of the senior in a game that was out of reach.
“That’s him,” Currin said. “You learn more in losses than you do in wins and you learn about the kids. You see who wants to play, you see who’s ready to lay everything on the line because they’re proud football players, proud kids and proud to be Bulldogs. I’m proud of him.”